‘Taste of Al-Ahsa’ is a prize-winning Saudi visual feast

‘Taste of Al-Ahsa’ is a prize-winning Saudi visual feast
The Al-Ahsa film aims to capture the essence, spirit and beauty of a region known for its rich cultural heritage dating back centuries. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 October 2021

‘Taste of Al-Ahsa’ is a prize-winning Saudi visual feast

‘Taste of Al-Ahsa’ is a prize-winning Saudi visual feast
  • The short promotional film was honored with an award at a prestigious international event

JEDDAH: A short film showcasing some of the culinary delights Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahsa region is famous for has been honored with an award at a prestigious international event.
“Taste of Al-Ahsa” was named Best Potential World Region of Gastronomy Film at the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism’s Food Film Menu 2021 event.
The film packs a lot of Al-Ahsa’s food-related attractions and traditions into its running time of just over a minute, including authentic traditional Hassawi dishes and freshly picked dates from the region’s oases. It also features traditional music and dance and local arts and crafts, such as bisht (a traditional Arab men’s cloak) making.

The film is one of five in a series titled “The Senses of Saudi Arabia,” each of which explores a location in the Kingdom as experienced through one of the five senses. The others focus on Jeddah, Najd, Tabouk and Jazan.
The Al-Ahsa film aims to capture the essence, spirit and beauty of a region known for its rich cultural heritage dating back centuries, including culinary traditions influenced by years of migration that created unique local cuisines.
Traditional farming techniques are also featured in the film, which aims to showcase the region as a destination for tourists interested in culinary traditions and food experiences.
The Saudi Tourism Association came up with the idea for the series of promotional films in collaboration with Merak, a media and production company with a team of creative Saudi minds led by Ali Al-Rashidi.
Talking about the idea behind the Al-Ahsa film, he told Arab News: “It is unique and it highlights many important cultural aspects and Saudi historical legacies, including the true taste of Al-Ahsa food and flavors, in a minute.”

The team that made the film said that with only 12 days to shoot it, they faced a difficult task because there were so many options for things to include and they wanted to share as many of them as possible with the world.
“Al-Ahsa has a vibrant, versatile culture for tourists to live the full experience, from its signature traditional flavors to its prominent palm trees and heavenly agricultural nature,” said creative director Ahmad Eid.
The soundtrack to the film includes Hassawi farmers singing a celebratory folk song after a successful harvest season. Eid said that the music is an inherited part of the Hassawi heritage of “Daq Al-Hab,” which translates to English as “bean grinding.”
Mohammed Al-Juraibi, the film’s music producer, told Arab News: “After harvesting season, Hassawi farmers start to crush and grind the crop of beans using a wooden, branch-like stick to turn them into flour and other products. During that process the farmers traditionally sing a rhyming rhythm of folkloric chants until they finish.”
Majeed Hattaf, the producer of the “Senses of Saudi Arabia” series, said it had been challenging to assemble a team able to combine the Al-Ahsa film’s visuals with creative music production to create a distinctive audio identity for the region.
“The most important aspect of this film is the music, in my view,” he added. “The sound of each scene creates an artistic scene that stirs emotions.”
He added that production of the five films took about three months to complete but this timescale does not fully reflect the huge amount of effort went into the process.
For example, finding locations with the specific flowers and crops he wanted to feature in the Al-Ahsa film, such as okra, onions and sunflowers, was challenging because they grow at different times of the year. But they were essential for getting across the character of the region.
“Food is not only considered as nutrition for the people of Al-Ahsa but rather it makes up their festive gastronomy culture,” said Eid.




Majeed Hattaf

The film highlights some of the traditional dishes unique to Al-Ahsa, including a rice dish called kabsa hasawiya, and a thin, crispy sweetened bread served as a cracker with tea.
“We highlighted khobz alhamar, or red bread, which is one of the most famous Hassawi foods still found and baked in traditional bakeries,” said Eid. “The bread is red because date paste is added. Also … sunflower seeds are featured as they represent a popular healthy Hasawi snack.”
In addition to traditional Hassawi dishes and delicacies, the film also highlights practitioners of traditional Al-Ahsa crafts, including tailors who make bishts and silversmiths who create jewelry.
“We truly felt the warm feeling that this film conveys to viewers while we were filming, as Hassawis are known for the warm welcome they offer their guests,” Eid said.
“The kindness of the people was a valuable asset to this film. It is not the producers who made it great and good enough to win a prize, but rather the people of that region who showed who they are by being themselves in front of the cameras.”


Stunning French soprano enthralls Jeddah audience

Clara Barbier Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini. Her journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. (Photos/ Hayy Jameel)
Clara Barbier Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini. Her journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. (Photos/ Hayy Jameel)
Updated 24 January 2022

Stunning French soprano enthralls Jeddah audience

Clara Barbier Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini. Her journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. (Photos/ Hayy Jameel)
  • Clara Barbier Serrano performs arias taking audience on a special journey through European history
  • To be in this place in this Maraya concert hall was just incredible, because it’s beautiful; it’s so magical how we can bring this music to the whole world, and then people will somehow connect to it

JEDDAH: The first recipient of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel Scholarship, French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano, thrilled a Jeddah audience with her stunning performance on the Hayy Jameel stage on Jan. 22.

Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini, taking the Jeddawi audience on a special journey through European history from the 17th to the 20th centuries, via Italian opera, Mozart and finishing with French songs, accompanied by a pianist to complete a beautiful, intimate recital.
This event is considered the first classical music performance at Hayy Jameel.
In an exclusive interview at Hayy Jameel, Serrano told Arab News that she was lucky to receive the scholarship as it created chances for her, including the opportunity to perform next to Bocelli at different locations throughout the world.
“I had my first performance next to Bocelli after I received the Bocelli-Jameel scholarship, it is really always a pleasure to sing next to him,” she said.
“Now I feel more at ease when we’re on the stage together. I’m more relaxed than before because I know him a little bit. There is very nice energy that he gives on stage.”
The talented young singer performed the day before with Bocelli at one of the Kingdom’s prominent cultural destinations, the award-winning Maraya in AlUla.
“To be in this place in this Maraya concert hall was just incredible, because it’s beautiful; it’s so magical how we can bring this music to the whole world, and then people will somehow connect to it,” she said.
As a child, Serrano said that she did not know much about opera. “My family also didn’t listen to classical music, I was not particularly into it. I was listening more to jazz and things like that.”
Serrano’s journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. “I played the violin as a kid, and I took so many musical classes, singing in the choir, and playing the violin, I got more and more interested in the voice and then my teachers would tell me, you have a nice voice you should think solo, and that’s how I got interested in opera or more in lyrical singing.”
“At the time, I hadn’t seen many operas in my life. And it’s a very particular form of art actually. However, this interest in the voice just led me to practice this kind of singing,” she said.
Serrano said that when an opera is performed on stage a great narrative combination happens. “When we are on stage, it is like a story and a plot, it is like a theater piece being performed in a music style. The technique and the way we use our body to make the sound are very emotional. You have to take people with you in something very personal.”
Serrano received the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel Scholarship in 2020; she was rewarded with a two-year diploma in opera and a chance for her to be fully immersed in the opera world.
“I have been studying opera classical singing for six years, including my four years of bachelor in art and music in Germany, and now I am doing a special kind of postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music in London,” she said.
Serrano performed with Bocelli in the 2020 “Believe in Christmas” concert at the Teatro Regio di Parma, at the annual Concerto di Natale in Assisi in 2020, and in 2021 at the Teatro di Silenzio in Bocelli’s Tuscan hometown of Lajatico.
The opera scholarship is open to students from around the world. Community Jameel, which supports the scholarship, and Art Jameel, which runs Hayy Jameel, are sister organizations founded by the Jameel family of Saudi Arabia.
The Andrea Bocelli Foundation and Community Jameel scholarship were established in 2019, with the aim of supporting up-and-coming singers to study opera at the Royal College of Music in London. The second Bocelli-Jameel Scholar was awarded to Egyptian talent Laura Mekhail in 2021.


Saudi Arabia and Romania sign defense cooperation agreement

Saudi Arabia and Romania sign defense cooperation agreement
Updated 18 sec ago

Saudi Arabia and Romania sign defense cooperation agreement

Saudi Arabia and Romania sign defense cooperation agreement

RIYADH: The Saudi and Romanian governments signed an agreement for cooperation in the defense field, state-run SPA news agency reported on Monday.
The agreement covered a number of defense fields between the two countries, most notably training, exchanging expertise, technologies, developing communications systems, medical services, military history, archives, publications and museums, among others.
“The agreement comes within the commitment of the two governments to promote and encourage international peace and stability,” the statement said.
The deal was signed by Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs Dr. Khalid bin Hussein Al-Bayari and Romanian State Secretary and Chief of the Department for Defense Policy, Planning and International Relations Simona Cojocaru.


Internal Audit Conference to start today in Riyadh

The conference will be held under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari. (SPA)
The conference will be held under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari. (SPA)
Updated 41 min 8 sec ago

Internal Audit Conference to start today in Riyadh

The conference will be held under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari. (SPA)
  • The conference will host 30 local and international leaders and experts specialized in internal auditing and control systems

RIYADH: The activities of the 8th annual internal audit conference starts in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Organized by the Saudi Institute of Internal Auditors, the conference will be held under the slogan “The Future of Internal Audit,” under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari the president of the General Auditing Bureau and chairman of the board of directors of Institute of Internal Auditors.

The two-day conference aims to review the developments of the internal audit profession and control systems globally, chart the future of the profession according to worldwide developments and enhance the characteristics of flexible leadership for the profession in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

The conference will host 30 local and international leaders and experts specialized in internal auditing and control systems, in addition to a number of representatives of international organizations and companies, led by the president and CEO of the International Institute of Internal Auditors , Anthony Pugliese.

The conference will include dialogue sessions, presentations and specialized workshops, discussing the new trends in internal auditing and risk tools in leading control systems in enterprises, as well as role of governance in crisis management and business continuity and growing demand for internal auditing in the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center

Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center
Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center

Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center
  • Saudi Arabia takes over the presidency from Bahrain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has assumed the presidency of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Commercial Arbitration Center and will be headed by the Kingdom’s representative Fahd bin Ali Al-Omari, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
Saudi Arabia takes over the presidency from Bahrain following a decision made during a board of directors meeting in December.
Tariq Yousef Al-Shammari, the center’s secretary-general, said that Al-Omari is regarded as one of the most prominent legal figures in the Kingdom, and holds a leading position in the Federation of Saudi Chambers.
He also served as vice chairman of the disciplinary committee in the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and participated in several research projects on economic systems.
Bahrain’s representative and former president, Sami Zainal, praised the GCC’s accomplishments over the past year and the efforts made by the General Secretariat to achieve the center’s strategic objectives.
Oman’s Ali bin Salem Al Kasbi assumed the position of vice president.


Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia

Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 January 2022

Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia

Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia
  • The Kingdom will host a brand new Cirque du Soleil resident show unique to Saudi Arabia
  • The deal also says the two parties will establish a regional Cirque du Soleil academy and office

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has signed an agreement with the Canadian entertainment group Cirque du Soleil to enable it to put on its renowned creative performances in the Kingdom.
The agreement was signed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture and chairman of the Theater and Performing Arts Authority, and Gabriel de Alba, co-chairman of Cirque du Soleil, at a meeting held in New York City.
The agreement will see Cirque du Soleil present a number of award-winning circus shows for the first time in the Kingdom, including touring shows such as “The Illusionist,” “Now You See Me,” “Paw Patrol Live,” “Race to Rescue,” “Trolls Live,” and the Blue Man Group’s world tour. The Kingdom will also host a brand new Cirque du Soleil resident show unique to Saudi Arabia.
The agreement also says the two parties will establish a regional Cirque du Soleil academy and office, to provide a curriculum of high standards led by the best global circus experts. Students from all over the Kingdom and abroad will have the opportunity to hone their performance skills through the circus’ international school exchange and artist-in-residence programs, and will also be awarded internationally recognized certificates.

Cirque du Soleil has presented six shows in Saudi Arabia since 2018, the last of which was the “Messi 10” show, which was held in November during the Riyadh Season and shed light on the life of the famous Argentine footballer Lionel Messi.
The agreement comes with the performing arts witnessing greater development in the Kingdom, especially after the establishment of the Theater and Performing Arts Authority, which announced its strategy to further improve the sector last year.
The plan includes better infrastructure for theater and performing arts, providing job opportunities, building partnerships, and providing educational and training opportunities for about 4,500 playwrights and more than 4,000 trainees by 2030.